My Map of Tasmania

Musically, I’m pretty neutral about Amanda Palmer. Not a fan, don’t hate her music; just chilling here in Switzerland. But for someone who has no real opinion about her music, I sure do have a lot to say about the views she expresses in public and the “boundary pushing” she’s also well-known for.

Some things I like about her:

-ReBellyon.

Essentially, execs at Palmer’s record company (Roadrunner) asked to cut shots of her bare stomach from a video for her single “Leeds United”, and this inspired a “ReBellyon”, with Palmer refusing and fans creating a blog where they posted pictures of their own bellies and commentary. I am all for people refusing to fold under shitty and harmful ideas about how women should look and what an “acceptable body” is.

-The OMGArmpitHair!!11!! scandal.

Pit hair is natural. Don’t get it twisted, disgusted dude bloggers of the internet. I am very cool with someone making whatever grooming choice they want and then saying fuck you to expectations of what women should do- once again, the body police was out in force, and I’m happy to see a middle finger raised to them.

And now, the flipside: some things I do not like about Amanda Palmer:

- Evelyn Evelyn. (and here, for extra TigerBeatdown love)

-Her response to the Evelyn Evelyn controversy, which is quite a good “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by this”

-Her lolz at the expense of disabled feminists, and how she was crucified by them on the interwebs. Which, to be fair, was a real group effort.

And now a new thing that I feel conflicted about (maybe NSFW based on merkins and general pubic area shots!)- where does this belong in terms of those two lists?:

This is the video for a song that started as a one-off in-joke written by Palmer for a Tasmanian tour; “Map of Tasmania” referring to female pubic hair (a euphemism I hadn’t heard before but am quite fond of now!). A fan got some video, requests rolled in, and Palmer expressed her hope for a sweet remix. More backstory is here. Although meant to be fun and jokey, Palmer says it also speaks to a deeper issue

“I’ve been really shocked and distressed to find out that 8- and 9-year-old girls are getting all their pubic hairs waxed off by their mothers,” she says. “I think if I have any purpose at all, it’s to stand up there and say, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, girls. You totally have a choice. You can wax it, you can shave it, you can grow it out, and this really is up to you.’ That’s the way that I feel about everything, that you just need to know there’s a choice out there.”

Well, awesome. I love choice! (I am a feminist, after all…hahaha…). And I’m certainly pleased that people are speaking out and saying that rigid beauty standards and expectations are damaging. And I can’t not be a fan of glitter merkins. The merkins in this video are the bomb.

But……..this is a song about telling women they have choices, right? And that however they want to groom (or not groom) their pubes is totally 100% fine, right? Because these are some of the lyrics

Soft and sweet and shaped like a triangle
Some girls want no shape and they shave it all
That’s so whack, it hurts with the stubble
Walking ’round and look like an eight-year-old

Sorry, my bad. It’s really up to you, ladies. But you know, waxing it all off does mean that you’ll be walking around looking like an 8 year old.

Right now I might seem like the nit-picking spoilsport trying to ruin everything for everyone. But the thing is, every article or discussion I’ve ever read about the “to groom or not to groom” debate has turned from people discussing how they’ve felt shamed for not waxing it all off to people shaming women who do wax it all off. And I get it, I really do. When you feel as if a choice you make puts you in the outsider or “abnormal” category (such as being a full-bush lady in a society that sees pubes as disgusting things to be gotten rid of), you push for ideas of acceptability to be broadened so that more diversity can be portrayed and celebrated. But it can be easy for that goal to turn from “accepting everything” to “making the old norm unacceptable”, and just reversing the status quo. This happens when people talk about bodies too: people want the celebrated ideal of the supermodel body to not be the only acceptable body, but end up ripping into thin women (“eat a sandwich!”, “do you ever eat??”). So, rather than adding more types to the “acceptable” category, it ends up being just a restrictive as before but in the opposite direction or with an alternative ideal held up as the gold standard.

It makes me feel bad to read comments from women saying “ew, why would you shave it all off, you’d look like an little kid!” and “your boyfriend must be some kind of child-loving perv to like it bare”. Maybe these people have been hurt by comments about how dudes wouldn’t want to be with a woman who has pubic hair, and I can see how hurt can provoke that reaction. I don’t want any woman to feel shamed for her choice, be it all-on, all-off, pubes sculpted into a lightening bolt, or anything else.

This is why I’m a bit conflicted about Map of Tasmania: on the one hand, big ups for saying there’s nothing wrong with not waxing your pubic hair (and flouting some oppressive ideas of what women have to do). On the other hand, the same song that’s meant to make women feel empowered with choice is still shaming some kinds of choice. So it’s just a reversal of the norms, it isn’t really about diversity at all. If that line about looking like an 8 year old wasn’t there, I think I would love this song. It would be funny and cute and the comment about painful stubble is more of a personal preference comment. A light, semi-raunchy song about pubes and how there’s nothing wrong with them would be very welcome.


5 Comments

  1. Adreana says:

    Going by that lyric, it seems like AP is definitely putting the position that having some pubes rock and not having them is a bit lame. But maybe that does actually gel with her original purpose, to move things towards a state where one way of doing things is less the norm. That is to say, maybe when 8 and 9 year olds’ mothers are having their pubes waxed off then it has gone so far in that direction that you really have to say ‘pubeless is whack’ to get any movement towards the middle.

    I mean, ‘it’s okay to do whatever you want’ is a kind of boring message that is far less likely to have lead to you writing a blog post on this issue, I’m guessing :)

    • steph says:

      Yeah, but if your message is “pubeless is whack”, then how will that make 8 and 9 year olds who haven’t developed any yet feel? I get what you’re saying, that maybe we need to overshoot a bit to reach middle ground. But I really think that girls and women are exposed to enough messages already about what is good and what is bad that we don’t need any more.

      I think “it’s ok to do whatever you want, be yourself and don’t be ashamed of it” is actually an excellent one- it may sound boring because it’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s a far better thing to say than “being X is uncool and why would you do that; being Y rocks” because then you’re placing value on one thing over another and some people who make a choice that they feel is right to them are being told that their way of being themself is actually pretty stupid and weird.

      And honestly, I would be happy to never ever have to write another blog post, because that would mean there was no rape culture, inequality, sexism, discrimination, shame and judgement. And I would be very happy for that to happen. So I would actually prefer “non-events” which meant I didn’t need to write a blog post than irritating things that meant I did write a blog post.

  2. Boganette says:

    I too hate the backlash over bush-waxing. For a good six years or so I had a full wax – no hair at all. I used to prefer the look/feel of a pubeless vadge. Now I don’t – and so I don’t get full-waxes anymore. But I imagine throughout my life I’ll go back and forth. I also I have a tattoo that sometimes I feel like covering up with bush and sometimes I don’t. Neither look is wrong. And I certainly don’t look like an eight-year-old when I have no pubes. I look like a woman in her 20s with no pubes. This is not a difficult concept.

    I don’t like Amanda Palmer. That Evelyn/Evelyn shit was whack.

    • steph says:

      Whenever I hear/read something about how pubes are gross, or waxing is gross, I just want to throw my hands in the air and shout “can’t we all just get along?? Without making anyone feel bad?????” It’s just another issue used as a vehicle to make women feel like they are the freaky anomaly and there’s something wrong about their personal choice and preference. I don’t want to get riled up defending my choice of pubic grooming style. I really, really don’t. I just want the issue to be dropped, and have people accept that neither choice is inherently better than the other one.

      Yeah, the Evelyn/Evelyn shit was whack. The FWD and FWD follow-up on it were the stuff of awesome.